After a successful screen career that’s let him play several iconic characters — Eomer in the Lord of the Rings movies, Leonard “Bones” McCoy in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek films, and Judge Dredd in last year’s excellent but underseen Dredd — Karl Urban is making the leap to television. Unsurprisingly, it’s to another project from J.J. Abrams: the futuristic cop drama Almost Human, which was created by Fringe’s J.H. Wyman. We ran across a couple of great short interviews with Urban and Michael Ealy, who plays the robotic partner to Urban’s human cop John Kennex. We ran across a couple of short Comic-Con interviews with the pair (via BuddyTV) where they delve into the challenges and appeal of their characters in Almost Human.
After something goes horribly wrong in the field, most of Kennex’s team is killed and John himself is put into a coma for two years. When he wakes up, he’s had one leg replaced with a robotic prosthetic. That’s awkward for a guy with an aversion to technology, and it’s only made worse when he’s partnered up with a robot.
In the interview above, Urban reveals that John “does not remember vast tracts of his life.” This is an element I don’t remember running across in earlier stories about the show. Presumably that memory loss has something to do with the tragic events that left him in a coma. But if our humanity is, at least in part, defined by what we’ve done and what we remember, that plot point should be rich with potential for exploration as the series continues. Urban also says that Dorian will help John slowly begin to deal with all his anger and guilt.
Urban says the experience of filming Almost Human doesn’t feel much different from making a movie, but he is excited to get to explore his character over a longer period of time, as opposed to in a two-hour chunk. The notion of a continuing narrative where he doesn’t necessarily know where the character is headed also appeals to him since, as he points out, that’s how real-life works.
Interestingly, Urban doesn’t describe Almost Human as a science fiction show, but rather as a “slightly futuristic” show, since the technology being explored in the show is not so far down the pike that we can’t imagine living to see it. “It would be like we’re a cop show in the early ‘90s walking around with today’s phones,” says Urban.
Michael Ealy plays Kennex’s android partner, Dorian. He says he was won over for the role after a three-hour meeting with Wyman, which left him confident that the show would be headed in the right direction and had the potential to last (after all, Fringe survived five seasons on the notoriously cancel-happy Fox). He explains that, as with all the best science fiction, Almost Human’s futuristic trappings aren’t nearly as important as the relatable elements that can connect with what audience members are experiencing in the present, such as notions of discrimination. “Don’t call me a fucking robot,” jokes Ealy. “You can’t say that to [Dorian]. It’s offensive.” He also mentions that Detective Paul (Michael Irby) constantly calls Dorian “‘bot,” which of course is intended to suggest any number of real-world epithets or hate speech.
Ealy reveals that he was never terribly interested in thinking about what the future might be like, but working on the show has caused him to imagine what the world his children are going to grow up in might be like. “My son could potentially be partnered with Dorian.”
Ealy says figuring out how to play Dorian was a tricky task, but he points to three character touchstones that informed his performance: Jason Bourne, Robert Patrick’s T-1000 from Terminator 2, and Jeff Bridges’ titular character from Star Man. That should make for an intriguing mix, to say the least.
The actor also shared his hopes for how the relationship between Kennex and Dorian will evolve. “Dorian’s hunger for humanity will cause John to understand that he’s blessed and what he has is special. Flip that, what I hope Dorian understands is that everything human is not good.”
Almost Human premieres November 4th on Fox.